May 21, 2013

Pankaj Mishra: The Ruins of Empire

Pankaj Mishra writes fiction, travel, literary and political essays and his work has been published in a number of international journals including The New York Times and The Guardian.  Emma from Birkenhead Library reports on hearing him at AWRF 2013, in conversation with Damon Salesa.

Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra’s latest book, From the ruins of Empire: the intellectuals who remade Asia, is about the people whose ideas were instrumental in bringing Asia back from subjugation suffered under Western imperialism.   This was the subject of this session at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Mishra spoke to Damon Salesa of how his book follows the intellectuals who are not mentioned or acknowledged in histories of nation states (formed by drawing “lines in the sand” -- Mishra) or in those histories that trace the rise and fall of Western colonialism.  The people in his book travelled widely across Asia and Europe in the early twentieth century, exchanging ideas, working out how to regain self-respect and to empower Asian interests.  Jamal al-Din al-Afghani from Persia, the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao, and Rabindranath Tagore the Bengali poet, were cosmopolitans who influenced later Asian political leaders.

In this session, Mishra also spoke of the way that historical narrative can shape politics, and cited the “new imperialist fantasy” perpetuated by the media, politicians and even some intellectuals, which has led to attempts to remake the Middle East by military force.  As William Dalrymple pointed out at an earlier session, the cost of this is astronomical, and if the money for bombs went instead towards schools, the outcome would be a whole lot better.

Although I nearly fell asleep in this session, I was listening!  It was just warm in the auditorium, I was tired, and the subject matter was quite intellectual.  But it was also extremely interesting and I was inspired to read more of Mishra’s work. 

I will definitely be reading this book.  

-- Emma Chapman

Ditulis Oleh : Karen Craig // 17:00
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